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29 November 2023

Champions League: Atletico coast past Milan into quarter-finals

Kaka of AC Milan celebrates with after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and AC Milan at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 11, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (GETTY)

By Reuters

Diego Costa struck twice as Atletico Madrid thumped AC Milan 4-1 on Tuesday to send the seven-times winners crashing out 5-1 on aggregate and advance to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time this century.

Costa, who also scored in Atletico's 1-0 win at the San Siro in the first leg of the last-16 tie, put the La Liga side ahead in the third minute at the Calderon with an acrobatic volley.

Kaka levelled with a header in the 27th before Arda Turan's deflected effort sailed past Christian Abbiati five minutes before halftime to restore the home team's lead.

Raul Garcia headed Atletico's third in the 71st minute before Costa struck again five minutes from time.

"We are grateful for the support of the fans, and the truth is that the team deserves congratulating for the way it has played," Costa told Spanish television.

"We have done ourselves proud. All teams who reach the quarter-finals are very good. For now we'll just enjoy."

Atletico, who previously featured in the last eight in 1997 with a team featuring current coach Diego Simeone, thoroughly deserved their victory, while Milan's exit means there will be no Italian side in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009.

Atletico started the game with real intent, and Costa brought the home fans to their feet with his spectacular early goal from Koke's far-post cross.

Raul Garcia scuffed a shot narrowly wide of the Milan goal in the ninth minute but the visitors gradually started to gain some control and Mario Balotelli threatened before Kaka's leveller, a header that ricocheted into the net off Atletico fullback Juanfran.

It was the 31-year-old's 30th goal in Europe's elite club competition, more than any other Brazilian, and he should have had another when well placed in the 36th minute but headed over the crossbar.

Atletico weathered more Milan pressure until a well-worked move created space for Arda just outside the penalty area and his volley deflected off centre back Adil Rami, leaving Abbiati to watch it loop past him into the net.

Garcia almost netted an overhead kick and a Gabi effort spun away off the outside of the post either side of halftime, and Atletico looked increasingly comfortable as the second half wore on.

Garcia headed in Gabi's free kick before Costa scored with a low, angled shot, the Brazil-born forward's seventh goal in five Champions League appearances.

Milan's best moment of the second half came with the tie already beyond them, when substitute Robinho struck a shot against the crossbar in the 73rd minute.

The draw for the quarter-finals takes place on March 21.